Cross-channel rail services supplier Groupe Eurotunnel has said it will challenge the Competition Commission over its provisional findings that passengers and freight customers could face higher prices because  of its expansion into ferry services on the Dover-Calais route.

The Competition Commission said yesterday (19 February) that it believed Eurotunnel’s decision to acquire three ferries  from former ferry operator SeaFrance after that company’s liquidation in  late 2011 and launch its own MyFerryLink service between Calais and Dover in August 2012  would “significantly increase its already high share of the cross-Channel market”. It added that it felt “prices would rise” as a result of the move.

The commission also said Eurotunnel had moved into the ferry business because it was concerned at the increased competition it would face if another operator bought the SeaFrance assets instead. “Given that the company already holds a market share of over 40%, we’re concerned that customers could lose out,” said Alasdair Smith, Competition Commission deputy chairman.

Eurotunnel said it was “not surprised” at the position of the Competition Commission but would challenge its provisional findings.

“Eurotunnel considers that the acquisition of the ex-SeaFrance ships nine months after that company ceased all operations and the creation of a new competitor in the cross-Channel marketplace constitutes an increase in competition and brings additional choice for customers,” it said in a written statement.

“Eurotunnel intends to continue to work with the Competition Commission to allay the concerns raised by existing ferry operators and to demonstrate that the creation of MyFerryLink is a good thing  for the market,” confirmed Eurotunnel chairman and chief executive Jacques Gounon.

Rival ferry operator P&O Ferries, one of two other ferry operators on the Dover-Calais route, said it welcomed the Competition Commission's provisional findings and added that it had already approached the Office of Fair Trading about other plans of Eurotunnel's to take over the concession to operate the ports of Calais and Boulogne.

The Competition Commission's final report is due in April.